Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

THE SYLVESTER SEMESTER: The Specialist (1994)

Sylvester Stallone spent most of the nineties latching onto whatever cinematic fad was popular. He had already appeared in a “Die Hard” rip-off and would soon star in a superhero movie and a disaster flick. You get the impression that, in a post-“Rocky,” post-“Rambo” world, Sly didn’t quite know what to do with himself. Few movies are more representative of Stallone’s desperate need to stay relevant then “The Specialist.” The film was made at the peak of popularity of the “erotic thriller." It co-starred Sharon Stone, the genre’s sole superstar. The typical explosion-filled Stallone-style thrills and soft focus sex scenes made for an awkward combination.

Back in the eighties, Ray Quick and Ned Trent were bomb specialists for the CIA. After Ray got cold feet during a mission, he quit the organization and made a life-long enemy out of Ned. Years later, Ray is hired by a sexy woman, May, to take out the mob bosses who killed her family. Unbeknownst to Ray, May is a double agent working for Trent, who still holds a grudge against Quick. As their relationship quickly becomes physical, Ray begins to wonder about the girl’s loyalties.

“The Specialist” is based off a series of novels by the prolific John Shirley. The books belong to the “men’s adventure” genre, books devoted to stories of tough men bedding beautiful dames and killing bad guys. While that style suggests cheap thrills, “The Specialist” takes itself awfully serious. The tone is grim and determined. Much of the movie is devoted to Stallone glaring ahead stoically while explosions go off around him. The pace is turgid, the movie slowly rolling forward as its self-serious plot bends and twists itself in various directions. The script’s attempts to create a tone of heaviness and importance makes the film a slog to get through. The biggest crime “The Specialist” commits is being boring.

The erotic thriller is a disreputable type of film beloved by late night masturbators and most no one else. Those looking to “The Specialist” for fap fodder will likely be disappointed. The film is definitely focused on the thriller side of the genre. There’s plenty of explosions. Bad guys are tossed out windows, out of cars, and over pool tables. There’s no fewer then a dozen kabooms over the protracted two hour run time. One especially laughable sequence occurs when Ray’s bomb cuts a building in half, the people inside falling into the ocean. The effects composition in this scene is badly organized. Only during one scene, when Sly roughs up some punks inside a bus, does the action in “The Specialist” ever amuses.

The movie does, eventually, deliver on the steamy sex scenes. Stallone’s character listens back to his phone conversations with Stone, imagining her writhing in lingerie or tight dresses. Stone, similarly, takes her top off in one scene for no reason. The film stops dead in the middle for a lengthy sex scene between the two characters. If you want to see Sly’s disturbingly veiny body contort in the shower around Sharon Stone’s boobs, “The Specialist” delivers. It’s too melodramatic to be sexy. Truthfully, the tackiness of the direction combined with the sight of Sly’s butt makes the scene more laughable then spankable. Sharon Stone isn’t much my type either, not even during the peak of her notoriety, so the scene provides me with nothing. Killing any erotic tension is the complete lack of chemistry between Stallone and Stone.

Sly and Sharon’s overly serious performance doesn’t provide “The Specialist” with much amusement. About the only saving grace the film has is its heavily tanned supporting cast. James Woods plays Trent. Woods goes wildly over-the-top, screaming and foaming at the mouth. When he gets angry at a room full of explosive experts, threatening them with a pen, it’s amusing. When he looses his cool while on the phone with Ray, destroying the room and vulgarly berating those around him, it’s glorious. “The Specialist” may be solely recommendable to fans of Woods’ going nuts on camera. Also among the cast is a slumming Rod Steiger. As a Mexican crime boss, Steiger hams it up while sporting a hilariously unconvincing accent. Rounding out the cast is a super-sleazy Eric Roberts as the secondary villain, the guy who killed Stone’s parents.

“The Specialist” is probably one of the dullest of Stallone’s flicks. The plot is needlessly convoluted. The overly long runtime is exacerbated by the sluggish pacing. Its star don’t seem much invested in the material. Not even the thrills of big explosions and high-gloss sex scenes can make the film interesting. Only Woods’ ridiculous performance livens things up. Though a decent money-maker, the film’s moribund critical reception didn’t little to slow Sylvester’s fading star power. [5/10]

[] Frank Stallone or Frank Stallone-esque Inspirational Music
[X] Incapacitates or Kills Someone With His Body
[X] Shows Off Buffness
[X] Social Outcast [Loner Hitman]
[X] Sweaty, Veiny Yelling

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